The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Ira Levin presents an intricate plot involving Dr. Josef Mengele (the “Angel of Death” from the Nazi concentration camps), who has set up a laboratory in Brazil. Yakov Liebermann is a Nazi hunter, based on the legendary Simon Wiesenthal. The two enemies finally confront each other in the United States, where the plot is resolved.

Only far into the book do readers learn the nature of Mengele’s plan, but there are intimations throughout. At a meeting of old Nazis, Mengele gives out the names and locations of ninety-four men who will have to be murdered within the next year. None holds an important position; most are civil servants or minor functionaries in government. They are spread all over the world. The Nazis are given new identity papers, passports, and money.

Unknown to Mengele, a young Jewish man interested in capturing Nazis has recognized Mengele and persuaded a waitress in the restaurant where the meeting is held to plant a tape recorder and to retrieve it for him. Mengele becomes suspicious, finds the waitress, and through her tracks down the young man, who is found in his hotel room playing parts of the tape to Liebermann. The young man is killed, but Liebermann has heard enough to pique his curiosity. He asks a friend at the Reuters news agency to note unusual deaths, and he travels to Germany to interview a woman who worked for Mengele during the war. She tells him enough to send him to a German scientist, who reveals that...

(The entire section is 524 words.)